Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley has been polling dismally in his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. Tonight’s debate is his opportunity to introduce himself to voters and establish himself as the (other) progressive alternative to front-runner Hillary Clinton. It’s going to be harder than it sounds.
When O’Malley touts his progressive bona fides, he typically points to things like increasing Maryland’s minimum wage, abolishing the death penalty, legalizing same-sex marriage, and decriminalizing marijuana (though his heart wasn’t really in it at the time).
Unfortunately for O’Malley, the national conversation, at least among the left, has turned to racism in policing and incarceration rates. And that’s where O’Malley’s weakest. His “zero tolerance” policing strategy implemented during his tenure as mayor of Baltimore not only had a dubious effect on crime rates, but also resulted in mass arrests that likely heightened tensions between police and black neighborhoods — tensions that exploded following Baltimore resident Freddie Gray’s fatal injury while in police custody.
If tonight’s debate turns to the topic of criminal justice reform, O’Malley is going to have to keep the conversation about his campaign’s comprehensive reform plan and put some obscenely heavy spin on his record as mayor and governor.
If you prefer to watch the debates in big groups of people, Maryland Democrats are hosting 14 debate-watch parties throughout the state, including one in Baltimore and one in Baltimore County.